Project Spotlight: Sam Ushiro's Sunny Retro Bathroom
With an aesthetic of 1960s mod meets 1970s mushrooms, Sam Ushiro’s bathroom renovation was destined to be what retro dreams are made of. The designer behind Aww Sam stayed true to her home’s original 1979 style with bright colors and handmade tile throughout the sunny space–including two custom colorways on the handpainted tile across the floor.
We sat down with Sam to talk about where she draws her playful inspiration from, the unexpected pieces she designed this space around, and the importance of keeping that incredible sunken tub.
1) Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Sam Ushiro, and I’m a DIY and Lifestyle designer, photographer, baker, and blogger. I studied Industrial Design at Parsons in NYC and used those skills as a foundation for creating fun and unique DIYs and baked goods!
2) How would you describe your aesthetic?
I would describe my aesthetic as a throwback or homage to retro styles. Think 1960’s mod meets 1970s mushrooms. I enjoy being colorful and bold, and those decades were full of both, as well as being about personal expression, which I think speaks to my aesthetic.
3) What is your design process like?
When I’m designing a room I spend a lot of time thinking through and figuring out exactly what I want. I start by searching through Instagram, Pinterest, and sometimes even vintage decor magazines, to find inspiration and potentially source items. Next, I usually mock up the room with the images and objects I’ve found, to get a better understanding of how it will look, and to make sure it feels authentic to me.
Once I’ve reached a point where I feel satisfied with the design, I go ahead and start purchasing the key pieces for the room, and then begin the process of remodeling. Sometimes I also design based on a few anchor pieces that I may already have or know I want to include in my design. For this bathroom, the two vintage mirrors were purchased in advance and the room was designed around them.
4) Where do you draw inspiration from?
I love to draw inspiration from the past, specifically design aesthetics from the 60s and 70s. The use of bold color, crazy patterns, and general playfulness of the eras lend themselves well to my personal style, and I can always find new inspiration from them when I feel like I’m in a creative rut. I love browsing vintage home and decor magazines from those time periods to find inspiration as well. There are a wealth of photos from those eras, so there is always something new to find!
5) Let's talk about this bathroom! Does it have a story you'd like to share?
We bought this home from the original owners who built it in 1979, and when we started looking into the bathroom more, there were a lot of structural issues so we, unfortunately, couldn’t keep it in its original condition. We always had the intention with our whole house of staying true to the style and even updating it further to look like it could have just stepped right out of the 70s, which is why we kept the incredible sunken tub and tile countertop look.
6) What sort of look or style were you going for here?
The style I was trying to evoke was that of the 70’s mod but elevated and brought up to date. To me, sunken tubs feel so luxurious, so we also had a goal of making this space feel like a little vacation.
7) What made you choose Harvest for the floor?
The Harvest tile really stuck out to me when I was looking at all the tile choices, and I think it was because of its geometric shapes. The half-circle, circle, and square that exist in the tile reminded me a lot of Mid Century Modern design and that is the look we were going for in the bathroom. I think they really stand out in a fun way, and really make the bathroom fun.
8) How about the glass tiles for the walls?
When it came to the shower, I wanted to evoke a feeling of calm and almost spa-like relaxation, and I felt like the glass tile helped convey that so well. The glass tile is also just the perfect choice for the sunken tub; it’s not as slippery so it’s easy to get in and out of by way of the steps!
9) We love your bold, colorful style--any tips for people wanting to design with more color?
Paint is your best friend! If you paint something super colorful and then decide you don’t like it, you can always paint it again with another color! It’s a medium that you can definitely explore without it having to feel too permanent if you’re not ready to make a bold, colorful decision yet!
10) You've worked with our tile before, any lessons learned from working with handmade tile?
I think the only lesson I learned was to make sure you have extras, especially with the hand-painted tile just in case there are any mistakes!
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